Few Iranian cities generate as much civic pride as Kashan. This city is the epitome of everything that is typically Persian, from its mosques, caravanserais and stately gardens, to its carpets, ceramics and delicate textiles. Kashan has never been the capital, but in no period did it lack anything in comparison to the major cities of the country.
Many derivations have been suggested for the town's name. One of these, perhaps the most veritable, claims that the town was called Kashan after Kasi, or their plural Kasian - an ancient tribe who inhabited this territory in the second half of the 2nd millennium B.C. Another explains the origin of the name as derived from kaseh ("a bow)", maintaining that Kashan looks like a bowl between the mountains and the desert. Still other asserts that this name derives from kashaneh ("a house"). One more popular explanation is that this name originates from Key ashian ("the place of kings"). Although many arguments have been presented on behalf of each of these derivations, none can be considered irrefutable.
Kashan has a remarkable history, and many fascinating legends are connected with its foundation and development. One of these calls Kashan a place from where "the three Wise Men" set out for Bethlehem to greet the newborn Christ. Although there is no written evidence of Kashan before the Seljuk period, it is known that there were settlements on its site as far back as the 5th millennium B.C. (Sialk,pp194-195). Achaemenid and Seleucid coins, excavated in Maraq, emphasize the importance of the region during these periods. Equally, Sasanid fire temples, the remains of which are found in Niasar, Abianeh, and Khorram-Dasht, point to the significance of this area during the Sasanid rule.
Early Islamic Period
An interesting story is connected with the Arab conquest of Kashan in the 7th century. The Arabs led by Abu Musa al-Ashari found the town's fortifications too strong to be surmounted by any conventional means. Thus, Abu Musa ordered scorpions to be brought inearthenware vessels and thrown Over the walls one after the other, causing a quick capitulation. This story originated the saying common in Iran, "Maya scorpion of Kashan sting you" Apocryphal as it may be, since i that time, every writer has spoken of the virulence and abundance of the scorpions found in Kashan. After the Islamic conquest, Kashan was subject to the rule of the Esfahan governor. At that time, the town was frequently sacked by tribe chieftains until the fortifications were laid on the order of Zobeida, the favorite wife of the famous Caliph Harun al-Rashid. The terrible earthquakes of 854 and 857, however, demolished the structures. The earthquake of 957 and an epidemic outbreak the following year practically eliminated the town. Nonetheless, it was soon rebuilt by a Buyid ruler.
From the Buyid period date the .original structures of the Congregational Mosque (p191) and of the Mausoleum of Qazi Asadollah.
Kashan during the Seljuk Period
Like many other cities, Kashan flourished under the Seljuks, especially during the reign of Malek Shah. This was a time of brilliant development of arts and crafts, particularly tile-making, that since that time has resulted in Kashans worldwide renown and has even accounted for its Persian name - kashi. The growth of carpet weaving, velvet production, and glazed-pottery making is also associated with this remarkable period. This was also a time of great architectural achievements, and both the Seljuk rulers and their noblemen built a great many of beautiful structures in Kashan.
Malek Shah himself was responsible for building the Jalali Fortress (pp184-185), which comprised fortification walls, towers, and many auxiliary structures. He also ordered the building of a dam near Qohrud, which has survived until modern times. Other buildings dating from the Seljuk period include the greater parts of the Congregational Mosque and the original building of the Mausoleum of Sultan Ali ibn Mohammad (pp209-210) in Mashhad-e Ardehal, At the end of the Seljuk period, the town and several of its neighboring villages were nearly razed by Malek Seljuk, grandson of Malek Shah, and survived only through the efforts of the town's governor, Majd al-Din Obeidollah Kashani, who paid a large ransom to prevent the destruction.
Mongol Invasions and the Il-Khanid Period
The Mongol hordes, led by Genghis Khan, swept over the region Jeaving behind massive ruin and devastation. However, Kashan escaped relatively unharmed. The raids decreased further when Shams al-Din Joveini was designated as the
local governor in 1252. During the second Mongol invasion, when the troops of Hulagu Khan entered Iran, they were convinced not to destroy Kashan by the prominent scientist, Nasir al-Din Tusi, who wielded great authority among the Mongols. Nasir ai-Din Tusi was motivated by the desire to spare the hometown of Baba Afzal Kashani, a renowned Sufi of Kashan origin, whom he greatly respected. The relatively kind treatment of Kashan by the invaders was primarily due to the town's luxury industries, which were profitable for the exchequer. During the Il-Khanid period, Kashan was one of the busiest and most prosperous towns in Iran. Ghazan Khan even made Kashan one of the royal residences and built a superb complex of structures, which, regretfully, has not survived to modern time. Starting in the second half of the 14th century, the town was often attacked by Mozaffarid rulers, who finally gained complete control over it in 1356. Mozaffar al- Din Shah and, after him, Shah Shoja governed Kashan until 1367.
Timurid and Turkman Rulers in Kashan
The great importance of Kashans industries for the country's economy saved the town from destruction also during Tamerlane's invasion. When the Timurid rule was established in Iran, Tamerlane's grandson Rostarn Bahador was appointed to govern Kashan. Afterwards, the town was occupied by the Qara-Quyunlu Turkman tribes. Jahan Shah's wife grew very fond of Kashan and contributed greatly to the town's prosperity. With. her financial assistance, the structures of the historical Stone Square were built.
Kashan during the Safavid Period
At the opening of the 16th century, the Kashan residents kicked out of town the last Turkrnan ruler, Sultan Murad, and gave a rousing welcome to Shah Ismail. The coronation of the first Safavid king in the Fin Garden (pp 196- 197) set up that special attitude that all Safavid rulers would have towards Kashan.
Under Shah Tahmasb I, the town continued to develop. At his orders, many new buildings were constructed, and many old structures were restored and decorated with tilework that has become the most conspicuous feature of Safavid art. Shah Tahmasb invited a respected theologian, Mohaqqeq Korki, to take up residence in Kashan. This turned the town into an important religious center and caused it to acquire its sobriquet of Dar nl-Moemenin ("The Town of the Faithful"). The end of Tahmasb's reign coincided with the destructive earthquake of 1574. The epicenter of the earthquake was in Fin, which is why all the early structures in this historical garden have not survived.
The unfortunate reign of Mohammad Khodabandeh was marked by general unrest. In Kashan, the local ruler, Mohammad Khan Turkman, rebelled against the Safavid rule. His followers reinforced the Jalali Fortress and made it their headquarters. From there, they attacked the town, sacked and ruined its structures, and killed its residents.This rebellion was put down by Shah Abbas I, with whom one of the brightest pages of Kashans history is associated.
|Brojerdi House wind catcher|
Shah Abbas nourished special feelings towards Kashan. He designated Aqa Khezr Nehavandi as a governor, and under this just ruler, an extensive construction was begun. An avenue of Chahar Bagh, inspired by its Esfahans namesake, was laid out. Four sectors and a caravanserai were annexed to the great bazaar, and numerous buildings were renovated. The town's carpet factories and workshops, where silks and other fabrics were woven, attained the peak of their prosperity during this period. Shah Abbas spent all the income he obtained from Kashan on charitable purposes.
He also made great donations for the promotion of the towns traditional industries. The production of carpets, velvets, glazed pottery, and tiles was greatly encouraged, and whenever the best was needed, the order was sent to Kashan's workshops. The famous carpet woven for the mausoleum of the Safavid ancestor in Ardabil, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, was made in Kashan by Maqsud Kashani, and this is only a single example. Travelers to the town at that time reported that Kashan was one of the most beautiful and prosperous cities in the country, second only to the capital. When Shah Abbas died in Mazanderan, according to his will he was brought to Kashan and buried in the Mausoleum of Habib ibn Musa (pp193-194).
Shah Safi also liked Kashan. During his rule, a number of buildings around Qohrud and in a district named Safi Abad after him were constructed.
Shah Safi spent most of his leisure time in Kashan and died there. His successor, Shah Abbas II, was crowned in the municipality building of Kashan. Under him and his successors, the city further prospered.
Post-Safavid was generally a gloomy period in Kashan. Afghan invaders cast their anger on the places most favored by Safavid kings, and Kashan, which was spared even by the Mongol and Timurid hordes, was seriously threatened. To prevent Afghan raids, the sagacious Kashan people sent an envoy to Mahmud Afghan and promised him to pay all the expenses of the Afghans during their siege of Esfahan. They rightly assumed that, if Afghans would take Esfahan, their next destination would be Kashan. Otherwise, if they would not succeed in taking the capital, they would wreak their anger on Kashan.
However, despite this farsighted measure, the town was badly ruined. In 1730, when Afghan troops were defeated by Nader Afshar, Kashan welcomed a new ruler as a savior. The residents of Kashan delegated five representatives to the ceremony of Nader's crowning, among them Mirza Abulqasem Sheikh al-Islam Kashani, who became one of the masterminds of Nader's administration. Under this person's careful guidance, Nader ordered excessive construction work in Kashan to make up for the devastation of the town during the Afghan invasion. However, when Nader was killed, Afghans and Uzbeks again attacked and plundered Kashan.
During Karim Khan Zand's rule, Kashan was governed by Muez aI-Din Mohammad Ghaffari and then by his son-in-law, Abdolrezaq Khan Kashi. The latter assiduously expanded the town and left a good memory of himself in Kashan's history. The construction of the Khan complex is attributed to Abdolrezaq Khan; this complex consisted of a bathhouse (still active), a mosque, a water storage tower, and a qanat, The period of Abdolrezaq's governorship was saddened by the earthquake of 1778 that struck in the last year of Karim Khan's ruling. Most of Kashans buildings were ruined, and more than 8,000 of its people were killed. Karim Khan dispatched best masters from other regions to restore Kashan's most important structures.
|Soltan Ahmad Bath|
Agha Mohammad Khan occupied Qorn and set out for Kashan immediately after Karim Khan's death. Ruled by Abdolrezaq Khan Kashi, Kashans inhabitants resisted fiercely, but could not fight off a stronger enemy. The town sent a deputy, Mullah Mohammad Mahdi Naraqi, who negotiated for the town's safety after its surrender. Although generally sticking to the agreement, Agha Mohammad Khan could not keep himself from destroying the part of Kashan and killing its residents. Abdolrezaq was arrested, and his property was confiscated. After that, however, a relatively peaceful period began.
Industries prospered, and gradually the town renewed its business activities. In the time of Mohammad Shah Qajar and his prime minister, Hajj Mirza Aghast, many buildings were built in Kashan. The period of Naser ai-Din Shah's reign was marred by an exile to Fin and the assassination of his celebrated minister Amir Kabir there. The peacefulness at that ti me led to the demolition of the town's fortifications. This led to Kashan's seizure by Naeb Hossein Kashi and his sons, who usurped power after the Constitutional Revolution and ruled until 1919, when the mutineers were executed.
This was the last sorrowful event in Kashan's history. Since then, the town has enjoyed a relatively peaceful life.